A joint is where two or more bones meet and the ends of each of the bones are covered in a smooth layer of hyaline cartilage allowing the bones to glide over one another. Around each joint, there is a capsule which contains synovial fluid which lubricates the joint and provides protection. The ligaments, muscles and tendons help control the movement available at each joint. The joints throughout our bodies are designed to provide a specific range of movement which can become affected when a joint becomes painful. Joint pain can occur throughout our bodies, from the spine – in the neck, upper or lower back or from our peripheral joints: our hips, knees, ankles, shoulders, elbows and wrists. 

Joint pain can have many different causes and it can be localised to one joint or in several joints. In some cases to establish the cause of a patient’s joint pain, further tests such as blood tests need to be done and in these cases, we would refer the patient to their GP.

Can an Osteopath Help With Joint Pain?

Yes! Osteopaths are trained to diagnose and treat joint pain. The cause of a patients joint pain needs to be established and once a diagnosis has been made, a treatment plan can be put into place.

Doctor Examines Woman's back

What Osteopaths Look for When Treating Joint Pain

  • How much pain free movement is available at the affected joint.
  • Could the soft tissues surrounding the joint such as ligaments, tendons and muscles be contributing to the joint pain? And are these structures working optimally? 
  • By addressing the soft tissues (muscles, ligaments etc) you help improve the circulation around the joint which in turn can help reduce any swelling, relieve tension and promote healing. 
  • Is the joint pain causing the patient to use their body differently? This could then places increased demand on other areas in the patients body. For example, if someone has hip or knee pain it may cause them to limp, which could then cause foot or lower back pain. 
  • Osteopaths are trained to help patients identify the cause of their symptoms and in some cases of joint pain, there may be a systemic cause such as rheumatoid arthritis or polymyalgia rheumatica. If your osteopath thinks this could be the cause of your symptoms, they will refer you to your GP so further tests can be done. 

Causes of Joint Pain


Osteoarthritis can occur in any joint in the body and the symptoms can include pain and a reduced range of movement. These symptoms can vary from mild to severe but the pain doesn’t always correlate to the amount of tissue damage there is. As the symptoms of osteoarthritis often start gradually, other joints and muscles surrounding the arthritic joint can also become symptomatic as more demand is placed on them and its these compensations that osteopathy can help with. The osteoarthritic changes in the joint(s) is irreversible, but osteopathic treatment can help keep the soft tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments) more balanced and our osteopaths can provide you with tailored exercises to help strengthen your muscles allowing them to function as optimally as possible. Osteopathy can also help reduce the compensations in the body, helping reduce the stresses and strains that are placed on other areas and getting your body to function as optimally as possible.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

This is an auto-immune condition, which is when the body’s immune system starts attacking its own healthy tissues and in rheumatoid arthritis this can cause pain, swelling and stiffness in joints throughout the body. 

The inflammation caused in rheumatoid arthritis can affect one joint or several joints and the inflammation may cause the joints to become hot, red, swollen, painful and unstable. Patients can also suffer with more general symptoms such as fatigue, fever and weight loss. Rheumatoid arthritis is diagnosed through scans, blood tests and a physical examination and if your osteopath thinks this is the cause of your symptoms, they will refer you to your GP so further tests can be done.

Facet Joint – Spinal Pain

Our vertebra are the bones that make up our spine and the joints that connect one vertebrae to the other are our facet joints (Zygapophyseal joints). The facet joints, along with the intervertebral discs help our spines transfer forces, as well as guide movement and motion and because of this it can predispose the facet joints to injury. Facet joint injuries can be acute causing sharp, sudden pain or more chronic and the symptoms can be localised or dispersed.  The inflammation from around the facet joint can also cause muscle spasms and inflammation of the nerves which may produce symptoms in the upper back, in the arm or in the leg. The facet joints can become symptomatic for a number of reasons such as stress and tension, poor posture, road traffic accidents and sports injuries.


This is when there is inflammation of the bursa – a small fluid filled sac that helps reduce friction between the muscles / tendons and the bones. We have bursas in all of our joints, but some are more commonly affected than others – such as in the knee, the hip, shoulder and the elbow. Bursitis can be caused by overuse or repetitive use of a joint or from trauma, such a fall. Osteopaths can help release tension in the surrounding muscles and tendons which can help reduce the inflammation as well as provide lifestyle advice which can be effective in managing these symptoms.

A Woman with Knee Injury clutching her knee

Knee Pain

The knee is a large, complex weight bearing joint which is made up of 4 bones: 

  • Femur (thigh bone)
  • Tibia (shin bone)
  • Fibula
  • Patella (knee cap)

Pain can commonly occur in the femoral- tibial (thigh to shin) joint and the patella-femoral (thigh-knee cap) joint. 

Common causes of knee pain include ligament sprains, meniscal tears, patella issues such as dislocation, bursitis and osteoarthritis. Osteopathy can help identify the cause of your knee pain and help put an effective management plan in place. In some cases, such as meniscal or ligament injuries further investigations such an MRI scan might be required and our osteopaths can refer you for these tests if they feel these are necessary.

Hip Pain

The hip is a ball and socket joint that connects the lower extremity to the pelvis. It’s a strong, stable joint that helps us be mobile and agile. As with other joints, the hip is surrounded by several ligaments and a joint capsule, which helps provided the joint with mobility but also stability. It is also surrounded by a strong group of muscles that help provide us with the power we need to walk, run and jump. 

Common causes of hip pain include muscle imbalances, ligament sprains, osteoarthritis and bursitis.

Shoulder Pain

Our shoulders are complex and hardworking joints in our bodies and because of this sometimes an injury can occur. The shoulder is a ball and socket joint but has a bigger range of movement available to it than other ball and socket joints, such as the hip. In order for us to have this large range of movement, some of the joint stability has been reduced, but the joint is finely controlled by ligaments and muscles, especially our rotator cuff muscles. Therefore, we need these ligaments and muscles to work together in a balanced and harmonious way throughout our day-to-day life.

Wrist and Elbow Pain

The elbow joint is a complex joint that helps provide mobility to the wrist and the hand. Common elbow problems include tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) or golfers elbow (medial epicondylitis). Both of these injuries are usually due to overuse, where the muscles in the forearm become too tight and cause pain. Osteopaths use a combination of massage and joint articulation to help with these symptoms, allowing you to get back to your normal activities as quickly as possible.

Person wearing red shorts holding the back of their thigh

Ways Bright Osteopathy Can Help With Joint Pain

Joint pain is a common complaint from our patients and it’s something our osteopaths deal with on a daily basis. Our osteopaths use a combination of hands on techniques to help alleviate your symptoms and will provide you with a tailored exercise plan to help stretch and where necessary strengthen your muscles. 

The treatment approach will depend on the cause of your joint pain and which techniques are best suited to helping improve your symptoms, but it may include joint articulation and mobilisation and soft tissue techniques to help massage muscles, ligaments and tendons allowing these structures to work together in a more balanced way. Our practitioners are also trained in Western Acupuncture (dry needling) which is a technique aimed at releasing myofascial trigger points helping muscles relax, be less painful and improve their range of movement. Our osteopaths will advise you on the best exercises to help stretch and strengthen the muscles around your affected joint(s) for both short and long term management. We will also provide lifestyle advice to help you manage your symptoms on a day to day basis.

If you are suffering with joint pain and are wondering whether osteopathy could help you, then get in touch with us here at Bright Osteopathy to see how our osteopaths could help you live more comfortably.